Tom Stokes, MPP
Democratic Alliance KZN Education Spokesperson
Most principals will agree that, given the choice, it is better to have a science teacher than a science lab (Mercury ‘Most pupils need more resources’, 22 July). A creative science teacher can get by without a lab. But a lab without a qualified teacher is of little value above being a normal classroom.
It is with this in mind that the latest agreement that Minister Angie Motshegka has signed on the minimum norms and standards for schools needs to be assessed.
It is difficult to criticise a universal norms and standards policy considering the vast discrepancy between urban and rural schools’ infrastructure and support materials, and research shows an absolute correlation between resourced schools and academic performance. But here in South Africa, we have to make careful and weighted choices when our resources are so limited and our challenges so great. The fear we should have is that a shift in focus and funds – to norms and standards – will deflect attention to the far more vexing but far more important problem of unskilled and unmotivated teachers.
Research confirms, without contradiction, that it is the quality of teaching personnel that determines the success or otherwise of a school. As yet, the ANC government has shown neither direction nor resolve in addressing this problem.